To the Editor:
Commissioner Arnold, I appreciate your efforts to act in the most responsible way possible in making decisions for the county. As a citizen sitting in the commissioners’ room, I’ve watched you struggle to be fair in making decisions at board meetings, and your recent report to constituents reflects the same effort.
You focus in your report, as you often do in board meetings, on the necessity of finding compromise. I agree that compromise is important, but it is not an end in itself. Compromise should not be the primary focus of your—or any commissioner’s—efforts. The board’s first responsibility is to enforce the law. Law exists to protect the health and the welfare of the citizens of the County. People do not—cannot—live in social groups without some form of law.
Unfortunately, this county has a history of being somewhat casual in the way it has dealt with its own law, and that has led to complications, confusions, and conflicts—precisely what consistent and fair application of the law is intended to prevent. In fact, Judge Sturino’s opinion—in the case you reference in your report—specifically acknowledges the county’s less than stellar adherence to the law. The county’s actions, she writes, are “best characterized as a mistake. The record also does not indicate that Houston County even knew about this mistake.”
Such sloppiness and ignorance on the part of the county cannot be corrected by compromise among the citizens. The responsibility for improvement rests squarely with the county commissioners. It is the commissioners who need to accept that responsibility, to make sure that they understand the law, and to ensure that it is applied fairly and consistently. Two important documents provide the basis of that law: the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the ordinances. I recommend them to you.